The first name on the team sheet, last year’s Player of the Season and now, 129 Royals appearances to date – starting every single one of them.
Suffice to say Liam Moore has accomplished the mission he set out to achieve as a Reading player, after taking the difficult decision to leave boyhood club, Leicester City in search of regular first team football in 2016. Since landing in RG2, Moore has been almost ever-present as he quickly established himself as one of Reading’s key players.
In the lengthy injury absence of Paul McShane this season, Moore has stepped up and taken on the captain’s armband as the Irishman recovered from a knee problem.
It has been a time of great change in Moore’s life of late, with his wife recently giving birth to their second child, all while increasing his seniority in the Reading squad and taking a full part in the topsy-turvy nature of Championship football.
There are constants in the 26-year-old’s Reading career, though, such as his reliability and commitment on the pitch, his personable nature off the field and an unquenchable desire to succeed.
Parenthood coupled with an increased breadth of footballing and life experience gives the centre-back a sense of pragmatism about life, happy to look at the bigger picture as he sat down with The Royal for a wide-ranging chat that encompassed life as a father, maturing as a person and a footballer, moving away from home, proving himself as a leader and plenty more…
For Liam Moore, he admits himself that the last 12-18 months have helped define who he is, not just as a player, but as a person. We all know Moore as a tough-tackling, passionate, never-say-die footballer who gives his all on and off the pitch, and he offered a unique insight into what’s been going through his mind of late.
“You’d be right in saying that, so much has happened,” he said when asked if this has been a life-changing year.
“I had my second child, who’s perfect – a little boy. I tried to play it cool with the missus that I wasn’t too fussed with what we got, with already having a girl I was desperate for a boy, so that was amazing to get him.
“My eldest is enjoying being a sister, she’s the boss – so she says! It’s her baby, nobody else’s. She’s taken to him really well, she wants to be there every time we change his nappy, every time he bathes, every time we put him to bed, she’s there every step of the way. It’s amazing to see both of them together.
“Player of the Season last season was something, for me, that was a massive aim of mine.
“You want to do as well as you can for the team to start with, but personally you want to perform. I came close the year before that, lost to a worthy winner in Ali, I knew that if I could crack on, it was something I wanted to achieve.
“Not just football-wise but family too, it was a big decision to move down to Reading. Not only did I come down to play football here, I moved my young family, sold my house in Leicester, committed everything to move to Reading. To get that recognition at the end of it was great for me, my parents back home, my wife who made the journey with me to live down here, my little girl, it was big.
“It showed consistency to be in the top three in my first year and to win it in the second year. It was something I was very proud to get.”
Moore took the plunge of leaving his boyhood club, Leicester City, when he signed for the Royals back in August 2016. Despite having had experience of loans in the Football League structure, this would be the cutting of the cord from the club he had represented from the age of 6.
“I feel settled now, but it was tough at the start,” he reminisced. “I’ve been on loan a few times, but it was only a loan, so just a temporary base. But when I moved to Reading, I signed a four-year contract when I first arrived, and I knew that I was here for the long haul.
“I don’t go back to Leicester as much as I thought I would, when I was on loan, I’d go back all the time. More often than not, people will come and visit us now because they like this part of the country as well.
“I’m a Leicester lad through and through. I was born there, I played for them, my whole life revolved around Leicester. When I went on loan, it was always with the option to come back to Leicester. I bought a house there when I was relatively young, at the time all I saw was Leicester.
“We had literally just finished the house to the spec we wanted, it was perfect for the way we wanted it and, two days later, I signed for Reading!
“It is difficult, but that’s football. It’s taught me a lesson, you’re always on the move.”
Moore’s arrival in RG2 came at a time where first-team football had been difficult to come by at his hometown club. With the side coming off the back of winning the Premier League title in the most remarkable circumstances, the squad was settled as Claudio Ranieri plumped for experienced heads in central defence, with Wes Morgan and Robert Huth often getting the nod with the Foxes.
The then-23-year-old ventured south with one thing in mind – getting games. Having played as an England youth international, Moore says the time had come to prove himself by playing on a regular basis. Such has been his desire to succeed, he has played on through several injuries, as he detailed…
“When I first signed, my target was to beat the amount of games I’d played in one season. It was 30 at Leicester, I wanted to get to 31 in my first season, bearing in mind I missed the first six or seven, after that I only missed two games, one through injury and one through suspension.
“The second year, I played the whole season without missing a game, which was massive for me. I wanted to show that I was robust, you’re always going to have niggles here and there, but I wanted to show that, no matter what it takes, I wanted to get back out on the pitch.
A heavily bandaged Moore played on after a nasty clash of heads with fellow centre-back, Tiago Ilori against Middlesbrough in October 2017.
“This season, unfortunately I picked up a calf injury, which was another learning curve. I’ve never really picked up a muscle injury, I pushed really hard the week before and maybe I pushed myself a bit too hard in training.
“Then it got to the game and I felt it go in the Wigan away game, 75th minute and my eagerness to play in the next game [at Leeds away] probably cost me the next two or three. Not many people know but I actually popped my calf in the warm-up, I went to push it off, and I didn’t tell anyone.
“I popped a couple of tablets down my throat and hobbled through the game, but the next day I couldn’t walk.
“It was a bit of a learning curve because game time is what I was craving. I’m thankful to all the managers I’ve worked under here, hopefully my form has warranted that as well, and I hope to keep getting as many games as possible.”
Moore has had a varied career for a player who is still on an upward trajectory on the football pitch. He recounted this with an explanation of how the level of trust in him has increased with the passage of time.
“Confidence was a big thing when I signed for Reading. I hadn’t played too many games – I’d played a few, maybe just about enough for my age, but I’d never been trusted consistently. When you’re younger you feel like you’re playing well, or maybe make one mistake – it’s easy for the manager to say, ‘we need experience for this moment.’
“In all honesty, I’ve had so many topsy-turvy seasons in my career. I went on loan in my first year, in my second I went back to Leicester, we had the Play-Offs where Knockaert missed a penalty and Watford went up the other end and scored with Deeney.
“After that, we got promoted and I played most of the games that year, the season after that I played in the Premier League and Leicester stayed up with the great escape, as they called it. Then Leicester won the Premier League the following season, we got to the Play-Off Final here the following season, then last season we stayed up on the final game of the season.
“This year we’re in a dogfight again, you don’t want a ‘cruising’ season, but I’ve never had a season to cruise along and enjoy your football. There’s always something on the line, but that’s football. At the end of the day you want to be part of those big games and for managers to continually put me in, play me in these big games and give me responsibility is massive.
“From the outside, I probably had the best position possible of watching Leicester winning the league. I wasn’t in the moment, but I wasn’t on the outside as a fan where you only see matchday. I was training every day and there on matchdays, so I was seeing what it took to be competitive and do what they did.
“I’ve also been on the other side of it now, of being in a relegation battle and getting out of it. So, I feel confident in situations now, trying to pass on a bit of calmness if I can. Footballers, in a lot of people’s eyes, are quite selfish. I’d be lying if I said 100% of them weren’t, but there’s a big percentage of people who do care, and that’s something I take on my shoulders quite heavily, in terms of our situation now and last season.
“Relegation would be tough personally, it wouldn’t be good for your reputation, but on the other side of it as a senior player, you’ve got staff – training ground and stadium, all these things change. If we were the ones to get relegated, fans are right – players could get moves, players could get on with their lives, but it changes other people’s lives, and it’s something I believe players should look at, and it’s something a lot of these players do look at.
“The responsibility is on us to get out of this mess. And moving forward, we need to realise that from the start of the season. It’s much deeper than getting three points on a Saturday, or just scraping to stay up, it’s people’s livelihoods.”
For much of the season, Moore has been wearing the captain’s armband in the absence of regular skipper, Paul McShane, through injury. It’s a role that Moore says he takes with the level of gravity it requires, when the armband is given to him. As he revealed, it’s a role he’s used to from his younger days.
“Macca’s the club captain and in the past when he’s missed games, it was a role that, in the back of my head, I thought I could fill. But at the time, there were other people in front of me. It was something that I’d always made that, if it was a role that was there, I feel like I could do it.
“Unfortunately, Macca has been out for a large portion of the season and I’ve worn the armband a lot.
“I’ve really enjoyed it, growing up I’ve been captain of most age groups at Leicester. I wore it for the Under-18s, reserves, I wore it for England for a little spell in a game. I think people see that it’s a role that I’ve got within me and it’s a role I take very seriously.
“I’ve changed a lot in how I do things from when I was younger to how I do them now. I always used to be the loudest person on the pitch, I just used to shout because I thought that’s what leaders did. But then it’s something, as I’ve done it more, I’ve looked into it and I believe you can have a big role on the pitch. Sometimes it’s good to show that you’re calm, and you need to speak to different people in different ways.
“On a football pitch where it’s emotional, things happen quickly, you just need to pass on the manager’s message as calmly and as clearly as you can as well. It’s a big role, it’s something I’ve wanted to do and I’m proud to have filled in for a big chunk of the season.”
Another hallmark of Moore’s Reading career has been his passion during matches. A video did the rounds on social media of Moore's jubilant celebrations at Ipswich Town earlier in the month, when Mo Barrow’s late winner gave the Royals all three points.
“Armband or not, that’s my reaction,” he smiled. “When we’ve been through a little tough spell and questions are asked, I like to answer them as a team. We were unfortunate against Rotherham and our ‘bottle’ got questioned, which is fair. People are well entitled to that opinion because we played so well in the first half.
“The same thing happened at Ipswich, but then to come back, dig in and say we can do it, we did it in the 91st minute and it was really big for us.
“All the emotions poured out. It’s not just about us, it’s not just about three points, it’s about the club and the bigger picture.”
With all that has happened around him of late, Moore took time to reflect on a defining period in his life, ascending to new levels of responsibility on and off the pitch.
But he said this has given him a new maturity as a person, with a newfound ability to separate life on the pitch and bringing up a family.
“My kids have definitely helped - my biggest mistake in the game was overthinking things," he admitted.
"When I didn’t start the 12th game of the Premier League season at Leicester – I had played the previous 11 – I over-analysed everything that had gone on in the previous 11 games. I tried to go through everything and, when I got brought back in a few games later, I was nowhere near the player I should have been.
“Then I had my little girl, I’d have a bad day and then I’d come home, and I knew that football was work, and this is family. It was hard at the start, but I’ve managed to get into that.
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“It’s been big for me over the last 18 months, it’s been tough with the results, as a team and personally I want to be pushing up there in the table. But to come home after a defeat to my little one, it’s like a reset button.
“I’ll spend time with her, have fun and I’ll come back on Monday reset. I’ll be good to go, and I’ll kick on again in the week. I’ve changed so much as a person, for the better I believe.
“Growing up, everything was going so smoothly as it was for me in terms of football. I joined the Leicester Academy at 6, every year I got given another year, it was never really in question. I always played, which isn’t always the case at Academies, I was captain at most age groups, signed a pro deal as I turned 17, went on loan, broke into the first team, everything was great. It wasn’t easy, but it was as smoothly as you’d like for a young footballer.
“And then I hit a wall, that’s when it all started to change. When I stopped playing, I went on loan, I didn’t play, questions were getting asked if I was good enough.
“That’s when things started to change. A real changing moment in my life, not just my career, was when Leicester lifted the Premier League trophy. I watched the season go by, I trained every day, played in the cups but I watched them lift the trophy – at the club I had always been at – and I wasn’t involved.
“For me, that moment there really knocked a switch in my head, and I thought, ‘I need to do this now.’ I can’t afford to sulk, maybe I was guilty of that when I wasn’t playing, I maybe wasn’t mature enough to understand the position I was in.
“The manager at the time, Ranieri was telling me I would get a chance, but I couldn’t see that chance coming. Maybe my negative mindset pushed that chance further away, so I had to change my mentality and Reading was the perfect opportunity for that.
“There weren’t many clubs willing to give me a chance at the time. I had Rotherham interested in signing me, and Reading. Jaap said he wanted me, and that was another changing point in my life. Coming here, moving my family down here, moving house, that changed everything.
“It was the biggest shot of my career. I had a bit of a springboard with a long contract – but I was either going to kick on and try to realise my potential, or it was going to continue in the spiral that it was going, which is not what I wanted at all. It was make or break for me in my head.
“I didn’t make any excuses about it, I was young still but I needed to start proving myself. I played in an England team with John Stones, Harry Maguire, Harry Kane, Jack Butland, Ben Gibson, Eric Dier, all these players.
“More times than not in the U21s it was me plus another, I saw the others really push on to do really good things. In that year or so where I had my wobble, it was when they stepped up. When I signed for Reading, that was my opportunity to get going and playing games.
“They’re out there doing amazing stuff now, but I look at them and think they’re not too far away. I know they’re in a different league, but if I’m learning, improving, learning to take responsibility – which is what centre-halves need to do, then eventually I feel confident I can push up those kinds of levels.”
The Long Read is an ongoing series of feature-length interviews with the Royals, found first in our matchday programme, The Royal. Don't forget to pick up your copy on any Madejski Stadium matchday for just £3 from any of our sellers based around the ground.